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The World’s Worst Composter Hits Pay Dirt

2012 October 12

By Pam Lazos

Let me start by saying that I’m relatively new to the sport of composting. For the decade I lived in Philadelphia there was no place for a bin, and for next decade I had my hands full with an extensive home restoration project: new walls, new windows, new wiring, a top-to-bottom job – not an excuse, I know, but a person can only handle so much. So it’s only in the last decade that I’ve taken up composting.

Composting is one of the easiest, most sustainable activities around, but somehow I’ve managed to make it both difficult and anxiety-producing. Perhaps because I work here at EPA I feel I should excel in this environmentally-friendly activity. Nonetheless, I am convinced I am the world’s worst composter.

Every evening when I make salad, cut fruit, prepare vegetables, or clean the non-meat, non-grain discards from the plates, I set aside the remnants in a bowl or bag. After dinner, one of the kids runs it out back to our fancy compost bin. I first used a rather small bin, but results were snail-like so I amped it up with this larger fancy-pants model. The six-tiered design allows me to disassemble it, turn the soil, and put it back together with the utmost of ease.

However, we’re still talking refuse, and fluttering around the refuse is a barrage of fruit flies and other winged demons that rise up in protest every time I open the lid to deposit my castoffs. It gets worse. I had been filling this bin for three years and never once turned the soil.

Embarrassed by my incompetence, I decided, just for kicks, to get out there with a shovel since none of my kids could be bribed. To combat the creepy flying things, I donned my husband’s beekeeper hood and prepared to be attacked. I had low expectations, but after the first turn of the soil, I was amazed. Beneath the still recognizable orange peels and pineapple rinds, the discarded zucchini ends and apple cores, was none other than black gold.Beautiful, black, rich, fertile soil that I intend to spread on my flower garden this fall — using the bee hood, of course. So I’m here to tell you, if the world’s worst composter can do it, you can too!

About the author: Pam Lazos, one of our attorneys, about her experiences with composting.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. Bernda Pittman permalink
    October 12, 2012

    Now lets get your kids engaged in sustainability. Its their future too!

  2. Kathy Moore permalink
    October 12, 2012

    I have the same problem, Pam. I have been composting for about 6 years and have produced about 6 1-gallon buckets of what I call compost. I don’t have a brown thumb, I guess. I’ll keep at it though.

  3. pam lazos permalink
    October 12, 2012

    Oh, my kids are involved, Brenda. They just like spiders and flying things even less than I do! Andy yes, Kathy, let’s keep at it. Sooner or later we’ll hit the “tipping point.”

  4. Christopher Haase permalink
    October 13, 2012

    Failure is nothing more than progress in disguise…
    I failed using the containment approach and found that mulching it in with our leaves and yards wastes acted as the best catalyst to break down.

    Made it useable at the source and cut down odors and pests.

  5. pam lazos permalink
    October 16, 2012

    Wow, that probably cuts down on the insects and things as well. I’ll have to try that, Chris, thanks.

  6. Bette Conway permalink
    October 16, 2012

    We have a tiered worm composter we purchased at the Philadelphia flower show, and aside from the fruit flys (which I think if we add more shredded paper in the layers to cover the vegetable waste, seem to diminish in numbers) we love it!! the individual trays have an “open grid” in the base so that the worms can move up/down the column, and when the bottom tray has been transformed to worm castings/soil, we place it on top, put a light on it, and the worms travel down into the lower trays, and we throw the new fertilizer/soil into our organic garden and flower beds. It time release feeds your plants better than commerical fertilizers, and the base for the stacking trays has a spigot so you can collect the juice, which can be oxidized (i.e. buy a cheap fish tank pump and put it in a bucket of juice) and then when diluted about 20 parts water/1 part juice makes great liquid fertilizer. We even collect our lint from the dryer and put it in the composter. And, its much nicer to take trash out to the curb that doesn’t smell of rotting food! :)

  7. pam lazos permalink
    October 17, 2012

    Sounds much more intricate than a bin out back behind the woodpile!

  8. Glenn Quattlebaum permalink
    October 22, 2012

    I have been composting for years and one of my best sources for material are neighbors who bag their grass clippings and leaves. Unfortunately the neighbor who was producing 10 – 25 large bags a week has gotten smart and stopped removing all of the clippings. Now I am trying to find another good source. Maybe we need to start an online compost exchange kind of like Craig’s List for dirt. My fancy compost equipment is a new (working) pile and an old (ready to use) pile and a pitchfork.

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